Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fargo (1996)

Never again will I see a film as original or intense as the Coen Brother’s masterpiece ‘Fargo’. Every scene in this brilliant movie is engaging and well-executed. There is never a dull moment in Fargo, every second is entertaining and purposeful, as the Coen brothers manage to take a simple plot and mold it into a masterpiece of American cinema.

A variety of genres have been applied to Fargo, including crime, drama, and comedy, but I believe that one of the most remarkable qualities of the film is its ability to transcend these standard genres and attain a quality very few films possess, uniqueness.

The characters in Fargo are normal, everyday Americans living in a very cold, barren, desolate part of the country called Bainerd. The inhabitants of Brainerd aren’t criminals, but hard-working Americans, who are very alien to the concepts of violence introduced to them by these outside forces.

It’s quite incredible how Joel and Ethan Coen managed to take such normal people and create memorable, effective characters out of them. Marge Gunderson, for example, is the polar opposite of the clichéd police officer that may have appeared in a lesser movie. She is good-spirited, optimistic, and friendly, not to mention seven months pregnant. As opposed to the men in Fargo, Marge is easy-going and calm, disconcerned with money, and a professional police officer who uses intuition and good police work to track down the criminals. Francis Mcdormand perfectly captures the personality of Marge, as well as her unique dialect.

Jerry Lundergard is another interesting character. Jerry is an inept car salesman who feels unappreciated at work and at home. In an attempt to prove himself as a success, he conceives an inane plot to kidnap his wife and steal a majority of her ransom. Jerry is a very flawed character. He isn’t a good liar, he is naïve, weak, utterly incompetent, and generally pathetic in his attitude towards his personal and professional life. He stupidly thrusts himself into a world he cannot begin to understand, and soon realizes that nearly every aspect of his original plan has gone completely awry. Soon, he is being attacked on all sides, the two kidnappers order a larger pay, his father-in-law insists that he himself deliver the ransom, the GMAC constantly badgers him about a stolen Sierra, and eventually, Marge catches up, resulting in one of the most memorable, tense, nervous, and effective confrontations ever put on film. William H. Macy is another great actor in this movie, perfectly portraying the desperation and repressed rage of the character.

There are many aspects of the film that are darkly comical, such as the two kidnappers, Carl Showalter and Gaear Grimsrud, who, despite their immoral and cold-hearted behavior, add some comic relief to the plot. Showalter is a greedy, scummy, unreliable, lying loudmouth played by Steve Buscemi. His partner, Gaear, could be considered the polar opposite; quiet and murderous, evil incarnate. Their interactions are quite funny, and Buscemi is, as usual, incredible. Fargo is also chock-full of instantly memorable and quotable lines of dialogue, a unique talent for the Coen Brothers, who have also provided audiences with quotable lines from subsequent films such as The Big Lebowski and No Country for Old Men.

The Coen brothers are fine filmmakers, and I enjoy a number of their movies, including their independent debut Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, the Big Lebowski, the Man Who Wasn’t there, and No Country For Old Men. They are quirky and ironic, never predictable and always original, they are uniquely talented, and very inspirational to me as a director. Fargo is a classic; suspenseful, funny, violent, and unforgettable; it is a masterpiece of American cinema.

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